New study will investigate how COVID-19 affects cannabis patients

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Millions of people across the globe have been infected with a deadly strain of coronavirus, known as “COVID-19”. While hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients have lost their lives, over a million have survived the lung-attacking virus; 1,049,260 people, to be exact, as of May 1.

These figures tell us that the virus is curable. However, patients who endure other types of medical conditions and diseases may see a spike in symptom severity amid COVID-19, what with many medical cannabis patients having limited or zero access to their medicine. A group of scientists at the University of Miami are striving to understand the sheer impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had on medical cannabis patients.

The team will harness their epidemiology knowledge to carry out a study that answers the question, “How does COVID-19 affect cannabis patients?” Epidemiology is a branch of medicine specializing in the determinants, patterns and distribution of health conditions/diseases in defined populations. By utilizing this area of expertise, University of Miami’s team of scientists can accurately analyze medical cannabis patient data during the prevalence of COVID-19.

Population-based data will be critical for determining effects of COVID-19 on medical cannabis patients

As a direct effect of store closures cannabis dispensaries across various U.S. states have been forced to close until the coronavirus outbreak comes to an end many medical cannabis patients are struggling to obtain medicine. This puts them in a vulnerable position, say the university’s scientists, who are being led by trained epidemiologist and assistant professor at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, Denise C Vidot, PhD.

According to the leader of this preliminary study, the vast majority of people who are prescribed medical cannabis will have “compromised immune systems and other chronic health conditions.” Because of this, Vidot says that the medical cannabis patient population cannot be forgotten about at this frightening time.

In order to get a comprehensive overview of each medical cannabis patient’s mental and physical health, data will be pulled from an anonymous survey by the University of Miami’s researchers. The data will also spotlight any potential changes in the frequency of each patient’s cannabis consumption, as well as the route of administration and dosage amid COVID-19 closures and restrictions.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that population-based data is vital to make informed decisions. My team and I understand that the plural of anecdote is not data. So, we are combining our skills to do our part to provide that data. Our goal is to have cannabis users from every country complete this survey, so the data is more generalizable,” said Vidot.

Cannabis consumer buying behavior is changing amid COVID-19 crisis

Methods of ingestion will be an important facet of the forthcoming study on medical cannabis patients amid COVID-19. The university’s experts will delve into the use of inhaled cannabis products; e.g. joints and vaporizers. Since COVID-19 can trigger respiratory failure in patients, a question mark currently hovers around the subject of inhalable cannabis product safety. 

The coronavirus outbreak has not only stimulated change in the type(s) of products being consumed by medical cannabis patients the pandemic is pushing people towards ingestibles​ in a bid to avoid respiratory problems but also, it has changed the way patients obtain their medicine. While some dispensaries are still operating under pick-up only rules, others are having their medicine delivered directly to their door. 

Click here if you are interested in participating in the University of Miami’s study on medical cannabis patients during COVID-19.